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To Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower
August 28, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
I am sending by General Styer a copy of Time and I wish you would read that portion that refers to our aircraft. Articles are appearing here in the States to the effect that our young flyers in England announce that the Spitfire is far better than our P-38, etc., etc. What is this all about? Can’t your people realize that they are merely stirring up an awful mess for us? If the Spitfire is better have Spaatz report the details and we will go about the business of improving our equivalent ship. But this loose talk is most unfortunate as it does no good whatsoever and actually does a great deal of harm.1
Incidentally, Arnold tells me that Royce lands in San Francisco and is quoted in the paper the day he lands as stating that the Japanese Zero is infinitely better than our fighter planes.2 This notwithstanding the fact that in one fight the other day at Port Darwin we shot down 21 of their ships with a loss of either one or none, I have forgotten which; and that in the battle of the Solomons up to two days ago the record stood 50 Japanese planes shot down with a loss of 6 on our side, and if one incident was not included, which it probably was not, the score was more nearly 65 to 7.3
We have just had a heavy barrage in our press against our B-17. This apparently was based on some British publicist’s declarations, but these latest comments are based, according to the writers, on the very positive and frank statements of our young pilots.4
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Major General Wilhelm D. Styer (U.S.M.A., 1916), chief of staff to the commanding general of Services of Supply in Washington, was on his way to England to inspect supply activities. Time magazine reported that American fighter pilots based in Britain preferred the British Spitfires over the American planes. “In the Pacific, U.S. planes and pilots have more than held their own,” declared Time. “On the European front, where the test is tougher because the opposition is tougher, U.S. fighter planes still have to prove themselves good enough.” (Time 40 [August 31, 1942]: 75-76.) Eisenhower replied on September 1: “The matter burst upon me something as a bombshell, as I had not seen any of this criticism in the press and had not heard it voiced here. I have struggled to keep quite close contact with our air people, and the impressions I have gotten from them do not dovetail at all with what the press has printed.” (Papers of DDE, 1: 519-21.) Major General Carl Spaatz was commanding general of the United States Army Air Forces in the European Theater of Operations.
2. Major General Ralph Royce (U.S.M.A., 1914), commanding general of the Southeastern Training Command at Maxwell Field, Alabama, had been commanding general of the Allied Air Forces in Northeast Australia and New Guinea until August 18.
3. For aircraft losses in the battle of the Eastern Solomons, see note 3, Marshall to Eisenhower, August 25, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-292 [3: 318-19].
4. Peter G. Masefield, air correspondent for the London Sunday Times, wrote of the limited ability of the B-17 Flying Fortress and the New York Times quoted him. The New York Herald Tribune published similar reports from Royal Air Force men which were broadcast by various news services. (Time, p. 76.) Eisenhower disputed this evaluation in his September 1 letter to Marshall and enclosed a British newspaper clipping which praised the American Flying Fortresses. According to Eisenhower the enclosed clipping “reflects very accurately everything I have heard from our own as well as from the British Air Force. We think the B-17 has proven its value conclusively.” (Papers of DDE, 1: 519-21; newspaper clipping with Eisenhower to Marshall, September 1, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 324-325.